SON OF GOD
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Diogo Morgado, Sebastian Knapp, Darwin Shaw, Amber Rose Revah, Roma
Downey, Adrian Schiller, Greg Hicks
Director: Christopher Spencer
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 138 Minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2014
“What are we going to do, then?”
“We are going to change the world.”
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett recently brought The Bible to television in miniseries form, to much acclaim and ratings. Son of God is actually just the portion of that miniseries dealing with the life, death and resurrection of Christ. So be warned, those of you who think you are about to see something new.
Personally, I applaud the husband and wife team of Downey and Burnett for their open Christianity and for bringing Biblical stories to both the large and small screen. I can’t speak for those who aren’t believers, but I happen to be one, so projects like these are almost always inspiring to me.
I say almost, because my life as a Christian and my work as a film critic are two separate things. My critique on Son of God is therefore not a critique of the man or the faith, merely the movie.
I can remember when Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ arrived…many questioned why an entire movie would be based JUST on that portion of Jesus’ life, when there was so much more. The simple answer is: the Passion IS a full movie’s worth of material. A full look at the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is not easily summarized in two and a half hours.
That is the primary flaw of Son of God. It is like a greatest hits album of Jesus, and like all hits compilations, there is bound to be aggravation and controversy over not what was included, but what was left out. For me, this movie is inexplicably missing a few major events: the wedding feast at Cana (the water into wine), the curing of any lepers, the confrontation with the possessed man (“my name is Legion, for we are many”), and, perhaps strongest of all, the transfiguration of Jesus, giving a glimpse of His full glory to Peter, James and John.
Other moments are here, though…the feeding of the 5,000, the Sermon on the Mount, the confrontation with the money changers in the temple, the raising of Lazarus, and of course, the suffering and death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection and ascension.
Hopefully, if you are here, you are already versed in the stories of the Gospels, so more plot summation than that will not be needed. My observations are simply that this is a film told with earnestness, but offers nothing really new in terms of Biblical depictions on screen…REALLY nothing new if you’ve seen the original miniseries.
Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus, and there was a bit of discussion over whether an actor so good looking (he really is) was the right choice for the role. The same discussion was had when the gorgeous Olivia Hussey was cast as Mother Mary in the classic miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. I have no qualms about his looks, and overall, he approaches the role with tremendous sincerity. However, I have had my fill of portrayals of Jesus in somewhat effeminate ways, for lack of a better word. Let’s not forget He spent most of His life as a carpenter…He would therefore have entered His ministry as a pretty rugged individual.
Other cast members are fine, but not overly memorable, including Roma Downey herself as Mary, Mother of Jesus. The depiction of Pontius Pilate (Hicks) as a cruel, self-centered man is possibly more historically accurate than the apathetic prefect he seems in the Bible. And John (Knapp) provides the Gospel that inspired the film, as well as the narrative voice.
It’s also beautifully filmed. However, at the time of Passion of the Christ, I personally thought that a better film about the life of Jesus could never be made. I still feel that way.
As mentioned, this movie is beautifully filmed, and this high definition transfer renders every detail with glorious perfection. There are some big moments where every part of the frame is filled, and everything comes through with amazing color and crispness.
The uncompressed audio delivers some strength in the larger scenes and renders the dialogue succinctly in others. Nicely balanced throughout, though not overly strong on the rear channels. The score by Hans Zimmer is a very enjoyable touch. If you opt for Spanish, you don’t just get any dubbed version, but the voices of many popular Latino actors.
There is a behind-the-scenes look at life on the set of the movie, along with cast and crew interviews, plus a documentary on the legacy of Christianity in today’s world featuring insight from many spiritual leaders.
Son of God is nothing you haven’t seen before, especially if you’ve watched the miniseries The Bible. This is an earnest look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but doesn’t offer much food for thought for those already well-versed in the Gospels.